Current estimates of the incidence of childhood sexual abuse range from 12% to 40%, indicating that a significant number of women enter pregnancy, labor and birth with past experiences of trauma. Recent quantitative research results have revealed little significant difference in rates of obstetrical complications and pregnancy outcomes in women reporting histories of childhood sexual abuse and those reporting no history of childhood sexual abuse. Empirical data and anecdotal reports of women's experiences during pregnancy, labor and birth, as well as health practitioners' experiences of providing prenatal and obstetrical care, indicate that a history of childhood sexual abuse can have a psychological and behavioral impact on the woman that may be evidenced throughout the prenatal and birth process. An awareness of the individual needs of survivors of childhood sexual abuse during this critical time has implications for the care provided by prenatal and obstetrical health care practitioners.
KEY WORDS: childhood sexual abuse, pregnancy, labor, childbirth, prenatal care, obstetrical care.
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Ann Diamond Weinstein, M.S. and Thomas R. Verny, M.D., D. Psych., FRCPC
Ann Diamond Weinstein, M.S. is a doctoral student in the Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology Program at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute, and the Replications and Resource Development Director of The Parent-Child Home Program, Inc. in Port Washington, New York. She can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thomas R. Verny, M.D. is on the faculty of the Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology Program of the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, California.